Jurgen Klopp responds to accusations of complacency in Liverpool side
Champions Liverpool were pegged back three times on Saturday by newly-promoted Leeds before Mohamed Salah hit the winnerby David Maddock
Jurgen Klopp has always shown an impressive grasp of Anglo-Saxon profanity in his charming use of Scouse.
Yet there is only one truly obscene word for the Liverpool manager, one which he forbids around his training ground, and suggests it will never surface “for as long as I breathe”. That word is complacency.
So when it was gently suggested to him, after a breath-taking bonanza on the opening day of the new season, that his back four of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson were perhaps a tiny bit complacent against newcomers Leeds, he bristled.
His eyes narrowed too. His face fixed in that look which seasoned observers know suggests trouble.
“I didn’t really see us struggling defensively,” he suggested curtly, where just about the rest of the footballing world did.
Then his impressive English kicked in…even if he mixed his sporting metaphors a little. “Defending is not like riding a bike, you have to work on it constantly,” he explained of a back line which has now kept just three clean sheets in their last 17 matches.
“The last line played for England, Holland and Scotland four days ago. All top teams but all different ways of defending, so it can happen.
“People say they’ve played 500 games together, but there is space for improvement, especially with the way Leeds play - you can’t defend it 100 per cent all of the time.”
What Klopp was suggesting was his side did not underestimate Leeds, but rather were perfectly aware of their qualities, and their weaknesses. So they conceded goals when the visitors, in thrilling fashion, committed five or even six players into the box, ahead of the ball.
Conversely, Liverpool created many chances when they won possession as Marcelo Bielsa’s side found themselves the wrong side of the ball.
In fact, while 4-3 was a fair reflection on Leeds’ brilliant attitude and approach, a couple more for Liverpool would not have been flattering. Klopp added: “I said before the game we will all struggle against them, 100 per cent, because the way they play is just uncomfortable. It’s different to all the other teams.
“If you don’t respect the opponent, the plan of the opponent – and we always do that – then they kill you in a football way. But I liked the attitude of my team. They just don’t stop and I really like it. But we didn’t stop either.
“With the ball we were a proper threat a lot of the time. We wanted to be direct because we knew that caused them a problem.
“So the game was exactly like it should have been, minus the three mistakes around the goals!”
That Liverpool’s winner came two minutes from time was an echo of last season, and the best sign they will not be complacent. It took the genius of Mo Salah to defeat Leeds and their compelling football.
He had the look of a svelte Maradona in some of his gliding runs with his left foot magic.
His two first-half goals, one from the spot, and a Van Dijk header were cancelled out each time by Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich, before Salah won it late on with his second penalty to complete his hat-trick.
Yet he worked hard in defence too, as did Sadio Mane, and that is the key to success again this season. When superstars are prepared to do the graft as well, that delivers trophies.